The Coors Effect

September 28, 2009 2:15 AM

Four wins

Thanks to a great defensive play by Clint Barmes in the ninth inning, the Rockies picked up a win in the rubber match of the series with the Cardinals.  Given the fact that the Rockies faced off against Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright in the first two games of the series, taking two of three was probably the best the Rockies could have hoped for, so the result's a good one.

Of course, the Braves don't plan on going away, and the Nationals are apparently perfectly happy to lie down (the Nats sat Adam Dunn for the final two games of the weekend series with the Braves.)  While it's probably a reach to say that the Nationals are intentionally tanking to ensure themselves the first pick of the 2010 draft (they've been terrible all year, so it's kind of difficult to say they're tanking now), they're not going to do the Rockies any favors.  With a three-game series at home against the Marlins, followed by a four-game closer against the Nats, the Braves could easily go 5-2 or 6-1 over the final week of the regular season.  7-0 isn't completely out of the question, but the Marlins are 8-7 against the Braves this year and it's hard to think they won't take at least one of three.

Thus the title of this post.  Four wins.  Four wins by the Rockies, and the Braves would have to run the table the rest of the way to force a playoff.  If the Braves lose even one game, four wins will give the Rockies a playoff spot.

Starting pitching decisions over the final week of the season are obviously difficult.  The Rockies have to balance the goals of setting up the playoff rotation, not overworking the starters, and making the playoffs; clearly, number three is the most important.  Tuesday will be Jason Marquis's turn in the rotation; he's struggled a lot in September and might not be in the playoff rotation.  The Rockies could start Jason Hammel instead, though they may plan on having him work long relief in the playoffs.  Theoretically, Tuesday's starter would be the starting pitcher on Sunday, and would be pitching on regular rest in Game 2 of the NLDS.

Wednesday's starter could come back and pitch on short rest on Sunday.  That's important, because Aaron Cook would be available on regular rest on Wednesday, and Ubaldo Jimenez would be available on short rest.  Given Cook's recent DL stint, they probably won't want him taxing himself too much over the final week, so going with Jimenez twice on short rest is a real possibility.  Can Ubaldo handle that kind of workload?  Cook could then pitch on Thursday, on extra rest.

The biggest question mark is Friday's starter.  Jorge de la Rosa can go on regular rest on Friday; alternatively, the Rockies could hold him back until Saturday and then have him pitch Game 1 of the NLDS on regular rest.  Either Marquis or Hammel will be moved to the bullpen for the playoffs, and the one who isn't will start on Tuesday.  The Rockies could go with Jose Contreras here, or they could go with one of the kids (Jhoulys Chacin?  Esmil Rogers?) for a spot start.  This would leave de la Rosa for Saturday, and presumably Jimenez for Sunday.

As for the opposing starters: the Rockies will likely face Chris Narveson, Jeff Suppan, and Manny Parra in the series against the Brewers; Narveson is inexperienced, while Suppan and Parra have been pretty bad this year.  It's hard to see the Rockies not taking two of three, minimum, but they've struggled with worse teams than the Brewers over the last month.  A sweep would be even better; that would leave the Rockies needing only one win in L.A. over the weekend.  The Dodgers, with a playoff spot wrapped up, will be setting up their playoff rotation, and it's tough to tell who they'll throw out there in that series.

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